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'Daddy's girl' heads for 100

HAPPY: Mrs Ricketts

TRUSTING GOD and not drinking or smoking has helped her live a long and blessed life, says Gertrude Louise Ricketts, who turns 100 next month.

Asked what got her to such a grand age, Mrs Ricketts, who marks her 100th birthday on March 21, told The Voice: “I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. The Lord, the good deeds I have done to so many people. I feel blessed.”

Known affectionately as ‘Sister G’, Mrs Ricketts, who has been a Christian for 78 years, said she is looking forward to celebrating the milestone.

“I feel good,” she said. “I feel glad for finally reaching 100.”

Born in Prospect, in Clarendon, Jamaica, in 1912, she now lives with a niece in New Cross, south London.

Family members told The Voice that as a child, the self-confessed daddy’s girl, whose maiden name is Henry, was known for having a great sense of humour and often played practical jokes on her brothers. It was in Jamaica that she met and married her husband, George.

Her husband, who died in 1966 after 33 years of marriage, remained in Jamaica when she came to Britain in 1964.

SIBLINGS

Mrs Ricketts said she came to the UK to join some of her siblings after getting a job as an assistant to well-known dressmaker Norman Hartnell, who designed outfits for the Queen. She said it felt good to see people wearing clothes she helped to make.

She went on to work at St Bartholomew’s hospital and Greenwich hospital, in London, as a domestic employee until her retirement in 1976.

Nicknamed ‘The Oracle’ by her family because of her vast knowledge of the family’s history, Mrs Ricketts often tells stories about her life as a young girl, her parents and grandparents.

“We have used this knowledge to compile our family tree. Through her memory, we have been able to build a mental picture of the family members we did not know,” her nephew, Clinton Henry, said.

He described his aunt as “stern but gentle and with a good sense of humour.”

Henry said she also led a busy life. Although she had no children of her own, she is widely known within her community to have looked after several nieces, nephews and family friends’ children over the years.

In addition, the talented musician, who loved to sing and played the organ in her younger years, brought her singing skills to the church choir at Calvary Church of God in Christ in Brockley, south London.

Over the years Ricketts has seen many changes and challenges, including suffering a stroke in 2009 that left her wheelchair-bound.

“Until then she had been quite active. She was cooking, shopping, even baking well into her 90s,” said Henry.

Her milestone birthday is bittersweet as one of her younger brothers died just before Christmas last year. She is now the eldest surviving sibling, with two younger sisters still living, Henry said.

Family members and friends from across the world will fly to London to celebrate Mrs Ricketts’ 100th birthday with a party.

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